Bono Mack on Chaz
May 1st, 2012
The big news from the GLAAD Awards a week ago was the surprise appearance of Cher to congratulate her son Chaz on his recognition by the group. But for me the more interesting story was that Chaz step-mother was the one scheduled to present the award.
Mary Bono Mack is a congresswoman from the Palm Springs area. A moderate Republican, her record on gay issues is mixed. She has voted against the Federal Marriage Amendment and for the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, but she also taken positions that were not in the interest of equality. Oddly enough, while she may not exactly represent my views, I’ve spoken to enough of the ‘Oh, Honey’ generation of gay men to know that her views are probably not too far from where they are (Palm Springs is, after all, where old gay Republicans go to
But I have wondered just how Mary has responded to Chastity/Chaz. Mary became Chaz’ step-mother when he (then Chastity) was 17; Mary was only about eight years older. And while there has been no public bickering, one never knows whether there was resentment or hostility between the two and my brief interactions with Chastity suggested that a relationship of any sort would require the patience of a saint.
I suspected that Mary would be classy in her demeanor. Her request that Cher deliver a eulogy for Sonny after his death seemed like a class act. But support for transgender issues is not exactly the hallmark of Republican congress members.
So I was pleased to see Mack there to support Chaz.
“I’m so honored that GLAAD asked me to present the award,” Mack told The Hollywood Reporter. “I think if anyone exemplifies courage and bravery right now, it’s Chaz. He’s had an extraordinary year — two years, actually — put himself out there for the public to see and I think America has fallen in love with him.”
Mack faces a redrawn district that is increasingly trending Democratic and her percentage of the vote has fallen in recent elections. But she is a sitting congresswoman and a Republican. And I find it encouraging that our nation’s social attitude has changed to the point where Mary Bono Mack can show up at the GLAAD Awards and tell the Hollywood Reporter how proud she is of her transgender stepson and no one, not even the professional anti-gays, has apoplexy.
We have won. Now it’s just a waiting game.
GLAAD regains focus with new accountability project
March 14th, 2012
The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation has contributed mightily to the way in which gay and lesbian people are perceived and treated in society. Organized to oppose hysterical and defamatory coverage of the AIDS epidemic in the New York Post in 1985, GLAAD soon expanded to address media image in general and through its Hollywood office began to influence television and cinema. And few organizations can claim greater success.
Those who recall the public presentation of gay and lesbian people in the 80’s will recall that the rare gay person included in a news story or entertainment seemed to be a creature to pity or to scorn. Flamboyant – or sinister – this was the murderer, the molester, the schemer, or the freak. You could laugh at him or fear him (lesbians didn’t exist) but to empathize or in any way associate with him was unthinkable.
And every media story about gay people required a counterpoint of condemnation. Homosexuality was an “issue” so while coverage of the Lotus Festival and Octoberfest and St. Patrick’s Day Parade included information about attendance and events, the Pride Parades included the reminders that sin abounded.
Things have changed. Now, media is so careful of responsible presentation that it is rare that GLAAD has to publicly object about a television show or news coverage. In fact, public image of gay people has so shifted that a what might once have been thoughtless stereotyping of a gay man’s flamboyance now, in Eric Stonestreet’s playing of Cameron on Modern Family, is quirky and endearing. And even the Unification Church-owned Washington Times, the last significant hold-out, has agreed to refer to gay people as such rather than “homosexuals” (which, in the United States, had become a code word connoting disapproval).
And no where was GLAAD more successful than in Hollywood. In the 80’s and early 90’s, many a good Hollywood liberal would tell a reporter that they supported gay rights, but well when it came to actually being in the presence of both a gay person and a camera, well… there was their career to consider.
The early years of the GLAAD media awards were not well supported. Awards were given primarily on the basis of who would show up to receive one. And, considering that this was a laudable action, that wasn’t such a bad criterion. But thanks to hard work, committed support from people like producer Gary Marshall and the incomparable Elizabeth Taylor, gradually it because little risk to be seen at the show. By the mid 2000’s the GLAAD Media Awards was a must-show for studios and Hollywood insiders who used the opportunity to not only be counted among the “good guys” but also informally connect and network.
And their success was not accidental or incidental. GLAAD held themselves to an idea that seems to elude so many activist organizations: define your parameters and stay in them. GLAAD did media advocacy; not lobbying politicians, not supporting gay soldiers, and certainly not “supporting our comrades in the struggle”. Just media advocacy.
GLAAD also adopted another tactic that is seldom employed by activists (other than Log Cabin and other duel-identity groups). They were as quick to praise good behavior as to condemn bad. And when they went after a studio or a director or newspaper, there was a road to redemption. The horrible thing you did resulted in you being a “bad guy”; but if you would just meet with gay film students or spend time with lesbian victims of violence or headlined an AIDS event, you could not only stop the criticism but be praised as a hero.
And it worked.
But success is difficult for advocacy groups. What do you do when you accomplish your goals?
If you are a marriage equality group in a Vermont, you might disband. But if GLAAD folded tent then the next television season would have lovely little gems like this year’s “Work It” (which managed to offend both my values and my lenience towards stupid television) with no organized objection. Theirs is not a “mission accomplished” type of work.
Another problem came from GLAAD’s shift from gay activists to Hollywood players. Gradually GLAAD had become the group that you went to with a script to be sure you were not offensive, the organization who helped you be a good guy rather than slapped your hand when you were not. And with the increased profile of the Media Awards, their funding came more from studios and corporations than from gay people.
There is no question that it is better for our community to avoid defamation than to protest it. But to protect gay people, GLAAD needed to be connected to the gay community. And they found this challenging.
They tried to be media advisors to local marriage advocacy groups, but that only goes so far. And the behind the scenes work where they are so effective is invisible to the gay public.
Sadly, the few efforts they made were ill advised. For a while GLAAD became The Word Police but they were so out of touch that they chastised our friends and allies for using ‘bad words’, much to the consternation of the community. And seen as part of “Gay, Inc.”, they have become a group that appeared (wrongly) irrelevant and unnecessary.
Which has made me sad. I have an emotional investment in this group and tremendous respect for the work they have done. But when every dollar and every moment of time is essential, “what have you done for me lately” is not an invalid question.
So it is with pleasure and relief that I can report on a new project of GLAAD: the Commentator Accountability Project.
In what surely was a “duh” moment, the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation decided to take on, of all things, defamation of gays and lesbians. Or, more specifically, they had decided that those who defame us and lie about us and take positions that are unconscionable towards us when they are in the safe confines of their own communities should not be free to pretend to be just ‘concerned citizens’ or ‘defenders of religious freedom’ when they go on news shows.
If you can say that gay people are a public health risk and that anti-bullying programs are an assault on religious freedom, then people who see you in a nice suit talking to the pretty lady on the boob tube about “protecting the people’s right to define marriage” deserve to know that you don’t represent their opinions at all. If you tell Aunt Thelma to send you money because gays hate Western Civilization and must be stopped before they enact their evil plan to destroy marriage and bring down the government, then you should explain to CNN just what that plan entails and how you came to know about it before you spout your equally-valid opinions about gays in the military.
Any reporter appreciates a tool that simplifies their research, and who better to track, compile, and report defamation than GLAAD? They already have the inroads with media, and they are seeking a partnership with that collection of unique individuals who – for reasons we will not dwell on – enjoy reading decades-old newsletters from obsolete local religious-right political groups: us bloggers.
This is a project that lies at the heart of their existence. So I commend GLAAD and congratulate them on regaining focus.
But, sadly, I can’t end this commentary there. I don’t think they’ve got a product that is ready for usage. While in time this should become a valuable tool, currently it lacks nuance and perspective.
Unforunately, GLAAD is utilizing the snip-quote method of criticism. They take one sentence out of context, assume that our objection reflects inherent offense, and ignore both motivation, implementation, and impact of that person’s views. The goal appears to be “make this person look bad” rather than an accurate portrayal and little effort seems to have gone into distinguishing credible respected voices from bit-players.
And some of the objectionable material is outdated and no longer reflects the speakers public positions. Does Maggie Gallagher still oppose non-discrimination policies like she did in 1996? Does that matter to why she would be invited?
The result is a listing that presents Scott Lively, who endorses execution of gay people, with Alan Chambers, who opposes sodomy laws. The president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Dr. Albert Mohler, who broke ranks recently to question the ‘no one is born gay’ mantra, is there with Joseph Farah, the wacky huckster who runs WorldNetDaily and published a series claiming that homosexuality is caused by soy products. Jim Daly, the president of mega-lobbyist Focus on the Family, is on the same page as two-second-sensation Frank Turek, the guy Bank of America dropped from presenting a ‘team building’ exercise when they found out that gay employees would not easily overlook his assertion that they hate the constitution. Maggie Gallagher, whose high-profile anti-gay activism has for years been limited to relationship recognition is cater-corner from Peter LaBarbera, the go-to guy for an over-the-top quote on all things homosexual who has little impact and less respect.
Each of these has said things that are offensive. Each has engaged in defamatory language. But without context or contrast the uninformed guest booker doesn’t find much guidance here.
I think it would be useful to know that when Dr. Mohler speaks about religious freedom, he does so from his concerns about how proposed changes will impact the abilities for his church or his fellow Southern Baptists to respond in certain ways, while when Bill Donohue speaks of religious freedom, he is using a rhetorical tool in defense of his church’s aggressive pro-active attack on the lives of gay people.
It is useful to know that Gallagher, though wrong, is articulate and presents a thoughtful argument while Brian Camenker is a loon that believes in conspiracy theories and thinks that Mitt Romney secretly supports gay marriage (ignore those legal scholars; Romney could have used an obscure article in the Massachusetts constitution to block it).
It might be important for an interviewer to know that David Barton’s anti-gay position is part of his belief that he is not only entitled but mandated by God to bring about theocracy and impose dominion over government and society, while Bishop Harry Jackson’s anti-gay position is heavily tied to his ideas about what it means to be a black man. This is not an immaterial difference.
This is not to suggest that they are “wrong”, just that while the tool holds promise, it needs further work. In current state it’s a hammer made of plaster of paris, the right shape but not yet functional.
So my congratulations and commendations to GLAAD are, for the moment, tempered. I am delighted to see them going in a direction of usefulness rather than nannyism and I look forward to the time (soon, I hope) when their Commentator Accountability Project is a tool I can use and recommend.
EQCA takes a smart step
November 2nd, 2011
I continue to believe that Equality California is a defunct organization that just hasn’t realized it yet. However, they have taken one step that I think is wise: (from a Send Us Money email)
So we are excited to share with you that, thanks to a generous leadership grant from the Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund, we have engaged veteran LGBT civil rights leader and nonprofit advisor, Joan Garry to serve as EQCA’s chief strategy and transition consultant over the next few months to conduct a focused assessment of the organization, create an interim management plan and develop a short-term strategic plan that will serve as a roadmap for a new executive director search. Joan will be joined in this effort by Dr. Julie Anderson.
I respect Joan Garry. Back when GLAAD was changing Hollywood (instead of being the Word Police), Joan’s instinct and hard work was instrumental in ensuring that gay people on film were not just demeaning stereotypes.
Perhaps she and Anderson can find a purpose and focus for Equality California. But I’m still not betting on it.
Why I oppose the effort to get Orbitz to cease advertising on Fox News
May 19th, 2011
A collection of gay and progressive groups have banded together to demand that Orbitz Travel not advertise on the Fox News Channel. The coalition consists of:
- Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation
- Courage Campaign (a multi-issue advocacy organization seeking progressive change in California)
- Equality Matters (a new media and communications initiative in support of gay equality)
Here is the reasoning:
Fox News has a conservative bias. It tends not to be pro-gay but to instead give a voice to those, like Bill O’Reilly, who are conservative and do not speak out as favorably on gay rights issues as we would wish. Therefore they should not receive any ad revenue from companies that want gay customers.
Fox News demonstrated an indefensible bias in its coverage of core issues for the LGBT community. An analysis of coverage on everything from gay marriage to the repeal of DADT to gay individuals supports a conclusion that Fox’s coverage is driven by a political agenda and cannot be considered an objective news source.
Or, as the more histrionic dropfox.com put it:
Fox News gave Mike Huckabee his own show despite a history of comparing homosexuality to drug abuse, incest, pedophilia, and necrophilia. Huckabee has repeatedly used his Fox platform to campaign against gay marriage, even insultingly suggesting that marriage equality poses a threat to stable society.
Bill O’ Reilly has repeatedly used his popular and prime time show to warn against the “dangers” of allowing gay people near children, to assert that same-sex marriage could lead to nuptials with turtles, ducks or dolphins, and to baselessly claim that implementing a hate crimes bill could protect pedophiles.
First, it’s pretty clear that those who are leading this campaign have never ever actually watched any of the programs about which they complain.
Their depiction of Bill O’Reilly, for example, is so far from reality that it embarrasses me for my community. While O’Reilly is by no means an advocate for our community and opposes basic equality, he has also advocated for the end of DADT, has spoken favorably at times about civil unions, and conditionally supports gay adoption. He is not “progressive” in his views, but they are not outside the realm of reasonable political positioning.
O’Reilly is prejudiced, biased, and opinionated, but his show also features regular guests, like Margaret Hoover, who use that time to argue in favor of marriage equality and other pro-gay positions. And I would argue that more conservative families have been exposed to pro-gay arguments – made by conservatives – through The O’Reilly Factor than by any other venue.
The sort of caracatures that this coalition set up are best left for the Peter LaBarberas and Linda Harveys of the world, not for organizations which purport to be advocating for accurate portrayal of gay people or for equality for all.
But I don’t think the anti-gay defamation or marriage equality really have much at all to do with this campaign. These organizations don’t like Fox’s perspective or viewpoint – in general – and want to silence the network. The gay angle is just convenient. So they are seeking to pressure a gay-supportive company to stop advertising with Fox (and you can be sure that it won’t stop with Orbitz).
And this campaign cares nothing for the fact that at least a third of gay Americans are not “progressive”. While these openly gay Americans may object to statements made on Fox, they do share many of their underlying values and perspectives. But that is ignored.
“You can’t appeal both to gay customers and conservative customers!” this campaign tells Orbitz, “so you must choose what kind of customers you want!”
And that is the sort of stupid, hard pressure, arrogant nonsense that only feeds anti-gay activists with the ammunition that they need to portray our community as intolerant, demanding, and totalitarian. Because this tactic IS intolerant, demanding, and totalitarian.
If we disagree with O’Reilly – and we do – then let’s challenge his views. Let’s demand that he retract extremist positions. And let’s inform his specific advertisers of where he is taking positions or making statements that are offensive and based in prejudice and fear.
But demanding that those who like us must also hate those we hate has not been an effective strategy since sixth grade. And frankly, if we go down that path we may find ourselves losing more friends than they do. Most successful business people don’t respond well to bullies.
My take on the language wars
March 19th, 2011
[In this commentary I will use certain replacement characters within some words. This is to minimize the censoring features of website monitors. I want to keep BTB as accessible as possible.]
I am a word-Nazi.
I don’t allow certain words to be used in my home, in my car, or in my company. I refuse to let certain jokes be told or attitudes to be expressed. I have delivered obnoxious little lectures and, on at least one occasion, pulled over and ordered a friend out saying, “I don’t want to be around you right now.” I can be a real killjoy and a total pain in the ass.
I recognize that words come charged with history, context, and implication. So no, words are not “just words” and not all words are equal.
Consider the following sentence: “I believe that all people should be equal under the law, be they young or old, gay or straight, white or a n!gger.” It doesn’t matter that the sentiment is positive. The choice to go with a slur derails any possible good and suggests to the reader that this statement is not really one of inclusion. Or, at least, not in most contexts.
Most of my objections are to words, jokes, and attitudes surrounding race. Don’t say anything in my presence that you would filter out if that racial group were the majority in the room. But while I am more tolerant of gay folks usage of gay related humor, I fight against buying into the pejorative messages that are driven our direction.
And I am not one who believes much in “reclaiming the power” in words. I find that far too often, adopting a slur as our own in reality means conceding the presumptions that were thrown at us and acting as though they are positive instead of negative.
Take the campaign to reclaim “queer”. This word was at one time applied to gay folk as a way of saying, “you are different, you are odd, you are ‘other’ than me, you are outside of acceptable social norms.”
But many of those who have reclaimed this term do not seem, to me, to be countering that claim. Rather, they seem to be adopting it. They say, “yes, we are different, we are odd, we are other, we are unacceptable, and we’re proud of it.”
That might be fine for those who emotionally need an identity as outsider, but it still buys into the outsider mentality. It agrees with our tormentors that our differences are more important than our similarities, a perspective that I do not think is healthy or true.
Also queer has, in many contexts, shifted to mean “anyone other than the bourgeois capitalist conformists” with little attention to sexual orientation; an identity based more on politics than attributes. And, amusingly, a good many queer folk are so tied into their outsider identity that they would exclude some gay people from being queer like them, finding them to be too assimilationist (is there anyone who would consider a GOProud member to be part of the queer community?).
So I find little use in adopting queer as part of my self-identity or my vocabulary. I don’t agree that I am outside of acceptable social norms or believe I should be segregated from society at large. My sexual identity is based primarily on recognition of my own attractions rather than on rejection of someone else’s.
I think that f*ggot is another word with little going for it. Like queer, it is an in-your-face word and can carry shock value, but it carries even more baggage. Unlike queer, which has mostly dropped from common usage, f*ggot is the slur du jour for those who delight in pain.
It has been my personal observation that those gay people who use the word “f*ggot” have not recaptured it from our oppressors. Rather, they – whether consciously or unconsciously – are reflecting their own sense of inadequacy or shame in that word selection. Yes, it can be used in irony, but more often it carries an undertone of worthlessness.
When one angry gay person screams “f*ggot!!” at another, more than a little self-loathing is exposed. (And, on a side note, is there anything more cringe-worthy than hearing a black man referring to a rival as “that n*gger”?)
I choose not to feed my own demons. I choose not to bolster negative social messages or validate the hatred of others. So, for me, f*ggot is a word without value and with more than a little danger and it has no place in my vocabulary.
The word fag I find to be a bit less troublesome. While it is still a slur from those who hate us, there is less emotional baggage attached when used within our community. Yet I think it still carries some value of “lesser than” and thus I don’t find it to be particularly useful.
But while words are important, intent is what should drive our response. And it is on intent that I judge the use of pejorative terms used to refer to gay people.
Some who comment here use the term queer in a way that does not intend to emphasize outsider status or exclude gay people who are not socially segregated, and I cannot apply my observations about the term to their usage. And I am already on record as finding the use of f*ggot in culture to be less important than the purpose of its use.
I’ve heard plenty of our enemies – those who seriously want to harm our lives and our freedoms – use the word “homosexual” in ways that were far more corrosive than had they said f*ggot. I’d far rather accept someone who toss out “homo” or “fag” but with a message of inclusion than read one more rant from the right that uses the polite term “gay community.”
Because while I am a word-Nazi around my friends, it isn’t really the word that I am objecting to, but the reason for the word. There are seldom any good reasons to use slurs, and when a pejorative term is used it mostly means that a mean-spirited thought is behind it. And that is what I find unacceptable.
Blanket policies about words that do not consider context or meaning are ridiculous and counter-productive. And, sadly, I think that in this instance that is where GLAAD has gone.
I agree with GLAAD that incautiously using the term fag – even when by a gay person – can add to an overall atmosphere that is damaging, especially to kids in school. There simply is no disputing that tossing around this word contributes to its social acceptance or that while he may have meant no harm, much harm can result.
I even think that it is within the mission of GLAAD to contact the writer and remind him how language can have consequences and to encourage him to look at the reasons within himself that he chose to go that path. I would hope that they would correct a writer that called something “so gay” when they meant “so pathetic”, even if the writer were gay.
But they should not presume intent or imply that Berk was an insensitive jerk that needed to be slapped down. And they should not have published this effort as a victory or suggested that it is the word itself, and not its intent, is what matters. Rather than participate in a more safe society, they reveal a rigidity to political correctness that is, for all practical purposes, just the mirror image of those anti-gay activists who put the word gay in scare quotes and insist “the correct word is homosexual”.
In writing this, I recalled two experiences that relate to this issue.
A few years ago I was on a cruise ship and overheard one young man talking to his friends. He was telling them that they should go to a particular club on the ship because there were some girls that were attractive and “the guys with them are gay.” At first I thought he was being offensive, using the word “gay” as a put-down. Then I realized what group he was talking about. And, yes, the guys were gay.
The other was a time I was walking on a street in my neighborhood with a friend. Some young man passing on the other side yelled “f*ggots!!.” I turned and shouted back, “yeah!” He kinda paused and shouted again, “f*ggots!!” and I responded with, “Yes. Good guess.” in a slightly impatient tone that implied that he was maybe just a bit slow. He stared, started to respond, closed his mouth, and walked away.
My point being, don’t find offense where it isn’t intended. And when we do reclaim power, reclaim it over our worth as people rather than just over a word.
March 18th, 2011
November 9th, 2010
There is currently a bit of a kerfuffle about the show Glee using the word “tranny” during their Rocky Horror episode. GLAAD is calling them in to have a little talk about it.
But here’s the thing, in a bigger sense, I still don’t know what appropriate term to use.
Yes, I know that the appropriate term is “transgender”, but I don’t think I’ve ever hear that used in a casual setting. It’s just too cumbersome and kinda clinical.
The first MTF transgender I knew was a loud brassy hippy-chick who was very kind to a naive young activist. She referred to herself as a tranny and, at the time, it seemed like everyone did. But while I know that term is still common among folks of a certain age who never thought of it as offensive, others find it to be an indication of disrespect.
Another friend of mine calls herself a T-girl. But I can’t say just how common that is. She may be the only one, for all I know.
So it’s a bit of an open question, I think. And one that is worth raising here as I know we have more than a few transgender readers. So I’ll ask you, our transgender folk (though others can opine as well):
Do you want to insist on “transgender”?
Some may. (I recall the lectures given to commenters on this site who made the fatal error of saying “transgendered”). But if so, is that a rule you keep for yourself? Do you always and only call yourself transgender?
Others may suggest that within friends other terms can be used. What might they be? What can we say that is not going to offend?
What can GLEE say that won’t offend? For that matter, is it even acceptable to be a sweet transvestite from transexual Transylvania anymore?
Murder Music Performer Buju Banton Faces Drug Charges In Miami
December 12th, 2009
Buju Banton, the Jamaican reggae star whose anti-gay lyrics have drawn international criticism, is in a federal lockup in Miami, facing drug conspiracy charges.
Drug Enforcement Administration agents say Banton, real name Mark Anthony Myrie, has been in custody since Thursday and will soon be transferred to Tampa, where the U.S. Attorney is charging him with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute more than five kilos of cocaine.
Buju Banton’s 1992 single, “Boom Bye Bye” calls for gay people to be shot in the head with automatic weapons, have acid poured on them, and burned “like an old tire wheel.” British LGBT Activist Peter Tatchel called the song “probably the most murderous incitement recorded by any singer anywhere in the world.” In 2007 Banton was among a number of reggae artists who signed the Reggae Compassionate Act, promising to refrain from performing homophobic songs or making homophobic statements. He later denied signing the pact, and has performed “Boom Bye Bye” since renouncing the agreement.
This past fall, Banton’s U.S. tour was marked with several concert cancellations due to protests from members of local and national LGBT groups. During the tour, Banton told a Jamaican radio station, “This is a fight, and as I said in one of my songs ‘there is no end to the war between me and faggot’ and it’s clear.” Last week, Banton’s latest album, Rasta Got Soul, earned a Grammy nomination for Best Reggae Album. In response, the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) launched a petition drive calling on the Recording Academy to withdraw Banton’s nomination.
GLAAD Asks ‘South Park’ To Dumb Down Show
This commentary is the opinion of the author and may not reflect the opinions of other authors at Box Turtle Bulletin
November 9th, 2009
Here’s a clip from last week’s South Park, titled “The F Word,” in which the boys attempted to redefine the word “fag” to mean inconsiderately loud and attention seeking motorcycle riders:
Fans of South Park, including myself, often view the show as one of TV’s most intelligent outlets for artistic cultural commentary. “The F Word” episode was no exception as it examined the power of the word “fag,” its constantly changing definition throughout history, and lastly the ability of a community to reclaim an insult into a badge of honor and identity.
GLAAD sees things differently and issued a Call To Acton. Poor GLAAD couldn’t even bring themselves to using the word “fag” in their Call To Action:
The creators of South Park are right on one important point: more and more people are using the F-word as an all-purpose insult. However, it is irresponsible and wrong to suggest that it is a benign insult or that promoting its use has no consequences for those who are the targets of anti-gay bullying and violence. This is a slur whose meaning remains rooted in homophobia. And while many South Park viewers will understand the sophisticated satire and critique in last night\’s episode, others won\’t [emphasis added] – and if even a small number of those take from this a message that using the “F-word” is OK, it worsens the hostile climate that many in our community continue to face.
Let me establish my credibility as a creative professional; I’m a licensed architect, I create films and interviews for my gay activism, and I’m a paid blogger for a community events group in Denver. There are a variety of ways to criticize creative works, some of which are stronger than others. Here’s how I see things…
Examples of valid and strong criticisms:
- The theme of your work is offensive to gay people
- Your work exploits gay people
- Your work presents ugly stereotypes as truth
- Your work is uninteresting or uncompelling
- Your work failed to make its point
- Your work is unoriginal
Examples of weak criticisms:
- Stupid people won’t understand your work
- You didn’t fit our talking points into your work
- You didn’t articulate your work’s message the way we wanted
It’s like saying contemporary art superstar Damien Hurst shouldn’t create works of art like the image below because someone might not understand the piece and think it’s OK to go out and spear an animal dozens of times with arrows.
The only thing I find offensive about “The F Word” is GLAAD asking other creative professionals to cater to the lowest common denominator in their audience because someone, somewhere might not understand it. The weak and invalid argument GLAAD presents would dumb-down America’s great cultural landscape for all of us.
The full episode can be viewed on South Park’s website until Wednesday night when the next new episode airs.
Are Lawsuits The Best Way To Go?
May 27th, 2009
I welcomed conservative Attorney Theodore Olson’s eagerness to try to overturn Prop 8 in federal court. But when I wrote that, I only addressed the fact that even conservatives are coming around to the idea that discrimination is fundamentally un-American.
What I didn’t address was the wisdom of trying to bring about change in the courts, especially when this particular tactic has almost no chance for success. I don’t think it’s wise to proceed in the courts. Eight prominent LGBT organizations agree:
In response to the California Supreme Court decision allowing Prop 8 to stand, four LGBT legal organizations and five other leading national LGBT groups are reminding the LGBT community that ill-timed lawsuits could set the fight for marriage back. The groups released a new publication, “Why the ballot box and not the courts should be the next step on marriage in California” (PDF: 70KB/3 pages). This publication discourages people from bringing premature lawsuits based on the federal Constitution because, without more groundwork, the U.S. Supreme Court likely is not yet ready to rule that same-sex couples cannot be barred from marriage. The groups also revised “Make Change, Not Lawsuits” (PDF: 105KB/7 pages). which was released after the California Supreme Court decision ending the ban on marriage for same-sex couples in California. This publication encourages couples who have legally married to ask friends, neighbors and institutions to honor their marriages, but discourages people from bringing lawsuits. [Hyperlinks added]
I tend to agree. The problem though is this: the LGBT movement has never been a monolith. Unlike the caricature painted by our opponents, there really has never been a behind-the-scenes entity to dictate a coordinated strategy. Advancement has been a messy process, at the ballot box, in the legislatures and in the courts.
But the whole reason that we have courts is they are the ones charged with dispensing justice for those with legitimate grievances. And when someone has a legitimate grievance, it’s hard to argue that they should not exercise their constitutional right to their day in court. This true whether that grievance is against negligent employer operating an unsafe work environment, a drunk driver whose recklessness resulted in the death of a loved one, or a state with discriminatory laws.
But I do think that the LGBT advocacy groups’ advice is what we need to heed now (PDF: 70KB/3 pages):
Rather than filing premature lawsuits, we need to talk to our friends, family and neighbors, and help them understand why denial of the freedom to marry is wrong. We need to build a vigorous, aggressive campaign to overturn Prop 8 and restore the freedom to marry in California. This is the moment to convince California and America that we should have the freedom to marry.
I hope Mr. Olson will consider deploying his considerable legal talents to help us win in other ways.
GLAAD Harris Interactive Survey: More Public Support
December 3rd, 2008
- 49% of adults favor marriage equality; 49% oppose when presented with an up or down decision.
- When given options, 38% favor marriage; 38% favor civil unions while disallowing marriage; and 22% wish for no legal recognition at all.
- 69% oppose adoption discrimination.
- 64% favor overturning DADT.
- 63% favor trans-inclusive Hate Crimes Legislation
- 51% support trans-inclusive ENDA, 45% do not. They didn’t inquire about non-discrimination laws that did not include transgender persons.
- 47% support immigration rights; 48% do not. This one surprises me and may be a result of the phrasing of the question: Do you favor or oppose… allowing gay Americans to sponsor their non-American life partners to become residents of the United States.
One thing that I found fascinating is that issues of homosexuality are sharply dividing Mainline Christians from Evangelical Christians. In all questions, Mainline Christians were gay-favorable and Evangelicals were among the least favorable.
This was particularly evident on issues that were in traditional areas of Christian activism (pre-Religious Right). For example, on the ENDA question, Mainline was the most supportive of all demographics while Evangelical was the least.
As the issues surrounding sexual orientation become more instilled in the war over religious dominance in the culture, a possible positive side effect could be that the non-religious come to see this as a sectarian battle and opt out of anti-gay efforts.
GLAAD Announces Layoffs
November 25th, 2008
Tough economic times is hitting everyone, including non-profits. Last week, it was Focus On the Family. Today, it’s the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation. GLAAD announced a reduction in force hitting all departments.
In addition to the overall dismal economy, GLAAD President Neil G. Giuliano also cites the election as another factor. “People were donating to the candidates and also gave a historic amount to fight anti-gay ballot measures,” he said.
For-Profit Fundraisers Rip Off Non-Profits and their Donors
July 6th, 2008
Private, for-profit companies which contract their services to non-profit organizations for fundraising have become a major rip-off, according to the Los Angeles Times this morning.
For-profit campaigns, which often employ telemarketing, mass mailings or one-time events, account for a small fraction of $223 billion in charitable giving each year in the United States. But they collect significant sums and help shape public perceptions of charities. Pairing computer-controlled dialing systems with low-wage workers, such firms can reach a large number of people in a short time.
But after these companies bills are paid, what’s left over? Often nothing. And yet the fundraising business is growing. Since 2000, the number of campaigns and amounts raised by for-profit firms has risen by about two-thirds in California alone.
To see how did your favorite LGBT charity do in California, here’s the list. GLAAD did the best, keeping a little over 70¢ of every dollar collected. Lambda Legal was very close behind at nearly 68¢. The Gay and Lesbian and Straight Education Network appears on the list twice, once under its full name, and once again under its initials. Combined, the two entities kept a little more than 59¢ of every dollar earned. Losers include the Horizon Foundation (8.6¢ of every dollar) and NGLTF (13.5¢ of every dollar, when combined with the NGLTF Foundation).
There is one caveat to these figures — they do not include fundraising which is conducted in-house.
Visiting San Diego?
April 23rd, 2008
San Diego is worth a visit. The city is charming and friendly with a world famous zoo, beautiful parks, perfect weather, and a thriving gay community. And although it is a military city that leans Republican, they are often of the pro-gay variety and the city is very supportive of its gay residents.
However, not everyone will make you welcome. For example, much of the funding for the anti-gay marriage amendment in California came from San Diego.
Among the major donors to Protect Marriage are a group of San Diego County businessmen. Developer Doug Manchester alone has contributed $125,000 prompting gays to urge a boycott of his properties. Manchester owns the Manchester Grand Hyatt and the San Diego Marriott Hotel and Marina.
Mission Valley developer Terry Caster has donated $162,500, Carlsbad car dealer Robert Hoehn gave $25,000, and La Jolla businessman Roger Benson has given $50,000, according to state records.
Now these businessmen are entitled to their opinions and to seek the advancement of their political goals, even if they are designed to harm gay men and women. And we are entitled to avoid giving them a single cent, if possible.
So if you live in San Diego, or are planning a visit, you may wish to avoid patronizing any of the following businesses.
A1 Self Storage (throughout California)
Caster Center and Stadium Park
Roger Benson appears to be retired and I am unable to identify his investment or ownership in any business that might be impacted by my spending decisions.
Some activists in San Diego are considering calling for a boycott of the above listed businesses. Complicating matters is that some of the businesses have a national reputation for working with the community. Hyatt, for example, is proud of their perfect score by HRC.
The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation announced that it has withdrawn from a “Pride Rocks” event scheduled for the summer at the Hyatt owned by Doug Manchester. The event celebrates gay pride.
The president of the gay and lesbian alliance , Neil Giuliano, said in a news release that Manchester’s decision to fund an initiative that would “hurt loving, committed gay couples makes it impossible for us” to take part in an event that promotes his hotel.
So if you are considering a visit to one of the most beautiful cities in California, by all means please come. Just put some thought into where your money goes while you’re there.